Just a small drag on postseason plan
MIAMI — They didn’t spoil Miami’s season, and their one win in the series may show up only as a blip on the Heat’s postseason radar, but the 76ers walked away from the first round grinning.
They threw a monkey wrench into Miami’s made-for-the-Finals machine. It didn’t have the shock value of the Celtics-Hawks series in 2008, when Atlanta took it to seven games and nearly sabotaged all of Boston’s offseason engineering.
But the 76ers altered Miami’s plans, if only slightly.
“Definitely, I believe they thought they were going to sweep us,’’ said Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young with a laugh. “Any team that’s up, 3-0, who doesn’t believe that?’’
Dwyane Wade had no doubt in his mind that his Heat would kick the Sixers around, then get their fists taped for a second-round series with the Celtics. He remembered the promise he made last season that he wouldn’t lose in the first round again after being bounced by the Celtics in five games.
But the Sixers didn’t want to go away. They won Game 4 Sunday, 86-82.
“In the playoffs, you’ve got to understand that you don’t want to breathe too much life into a team,’’ Wade said. “You give a team too much direction, too much life, a series can go from in your direction to the other team’s real fast.’’
After losing Sunday, the Heat had to watch as the Celtics put away the Knicks the same day. The Celtics then used Monday and Tuesday as rest days. When the second round begins Sunday, they will have had six days to prepare for the Heat.
The Heat didn’t finish off the 76ers until Wednesday, then took yesterday off, and will get back to work today. They won a playoff series for the first time since 2006, when they won the NBA title.
“This is a good step for the franchise,’’ said coach Erik Spoelstra. “It’s been a while, and in so many ways — there’s so many reminders of our championship season, in a lot of ways it feels like yesterday.’’
Wade, the 2006 Finals MVP, said Spoelstra could speak for himself.
“As a player, it seems like an eternity,’’ Wade said.
Haslem practicing Sidelined since September with a torn tendon in his left foot, forward Udonis Haslem returned to the practice floor this week, giving the Heat hope that one of their key components could join the playoff run. But they are being cautious.
“He would have told me a month ago he was ready to go, but we have to be very judicious,’’ said Spoelstra. “We’re not quite there yet.’’
Haslem practiced Tuesday, then participated in shootaround the next morning. Before that, it had typically taken the 30-year-old forward two to three days of recovery time after basketball activity.
“He was able to bounce back — not 100 percent — but he was able to bounce back and participate in the whole shootaround,’’ Spoelstra said. “So he is making steps.’’
Miller iffy Miami forward Mike Miller played all of six minutes in the Sixers series and didn’t see the floor in the last three games. He missed the first 29 games of the season with a sprained right thumb that required surgery, then sprained his left thumb in April’s win over the Celtics.
Spoelstra is evaluating how Miller can handle contact, and in practice Tuesday, Miller was able to grab a rebound, rush to the other end of the floor, dribbling with his left hand, and make a lefthanded pass for an assist.
“That was something that he wasn’t able to do a week ago,’’ Spoelstra said. “So he is making some progress in terms of being able to deal with the thumb injury.
“He’s finally got a brace now that works and is giving him some comfort. I’ll have to reevaluate that. I don’t know how that changes things. It’s making me think.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.